Artist Joanna Lapic is shown the finer points of stretching canvas by 3 Rivers Aboriginal Art Space Indigenous arts/business manager Sara Twigg-Patterson. They are watched by Dr Andrew Binns, Arts Northern Rivers Indigenous arts development officer Frances Bell Parker and Dr Malcolm Tester.
Artist Joanna Lapic is shown the finer points of stretching canvas by 3 Rivers Aboriginal Art Space Indigenous arts/business manager Sara Twigg-Patterson. They are watched by Dr Andrew Binns, Arts Northern Rivers Indigenous arts development officer Frances Bell Parker and Dr Malcolm Tester.

Teaching the business of art

Aboriginal artist Joanna Lapic has been painting for 13 years, but until last week she didn’t know how to stretch her own canvas or that the canvas she was using wouldn’t stand the test of time.

Joanna is one of a group of Indigenous artists that is taking part in a series of free workshops at the 3 Rivers Aboriginal Art Space in Lismore that looks at all aspects of selling art. The first one last week showed artists the correct technique for stretching canvas and also what materials to use to ensure each painting has longevity and is therefore more attractive to buyers.

Joanna said the skills she learnt are invaluable.

“What they are doing is unbelievable – it’s very helpful and already I feel more confident,” she said. “It’s really important for me to learn these skills and then hopefully I’ll get a better end result in terms of sales. It’s also a great chance to come and explore my talent in a happy and relaxed environment.

“Being an artist can be very isolating so being able to come together with other artists and be one mob and share ideas is wonderful. I’m learning so much and I’m having fun and meeting really nice, caring people who really want to help me with my art and my talent.”

The workshop is part of a series of four in the coming months assisting with professional and business development. They will cover pricing, dealing with galleries and retail outlets including practical skills like how to prepare a consignment and tax invoice, and one on how the Indigenous art market works and what makes some artists more collectable.

The workshops have been funded by proceeds from the Art of the Bundjalung Nation exhibition held over the Australia Day long weekend in 2009, where more than $80,000 of local Indigenous art was sold in three days.

Organised by Norpa and Gurgun Bulahnggelah (Lismore Aboriginal Health) with support from Dr Andrew Binns and Dr Malcolm Tester, the idea was to use profits to help local Indigenous artists sell more work by mounting further exhibitions.

However, it was decided teaching artists how to negotiate the art world would be more beneficial in the long run and as illustrated by Joanna, so far the workshops have been met with a very positive response.

“We wanted to encourage artists to come here and be creative and also learn about galleries and retailers and understand they want consistency and quality,” 3 Rivers Indigenous arts/business manager Sara Twigg-Patterson said. “It’s hard to talk business and negotiate when you don’t have those skills – it can be very confronting. There’s lots of misconceptions and miscommunication that can occur when doing business deals, so in my role I can also act as an intermediary person and break that down.

“Our first workshop went better than expected – all the participants were highly receptive and really interested in what was being explained to them. I just hope word spreads about how informative and fun they are so we get even more artists through the door.”

As well as a place to hold workshops and display and sell art, Sara said the vision for the 3 Rivers Aboriginal Art Space was to have a fully self-determined gallery, where a board of all-Indigenous directors runs the organisation on behalf of its members.

Any Aboriginal artists interested in joining any of the three upcoming workshops, which are all free, should phone Sara on 0488 426 002.


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